August 22, 2007:
She knows how to stay in shape for skiing, that's for sure.
My friend Magali Prevost was in a quandry last month. Her visa was about to expire, and her friends at her job at the EPA couldn't pull strings fast enough to get her an extension. She needed to either return to France or suffer the consequences of being put on Homeland Security's "unwelcome" list along with a bunch of guys with beards who had taken flying lessons.
In the end she took a temp position at her old job in Toulouse filling in for a friend on maternity leave, and booked a flight the day before her visa was up. Unfortunately, that didn't allow for a Baker or Rainier summit and ski this season, but as consolation she was able to sign up for the Embrun-Man Triathlon, aguably the most difficult Ironman distance triathlon in the world, which she had watched as a child and had always wanted to participate in.
For those of you who haven't heard of Embrun-Man, it's an event which the Ironman sponsors have declined to let use the "Ironman" moniker, not because it doesn't meet the difficulty requirements, but because it's TOO HARD. The 2.3 miles of swimming in a glacial lake, combined with the 15,000 vertical feet of climbing on the bike (the route is like a bad day in the Tour de France, and culminates in a climb over the Col de Izouard) and 1,500 ft. of climbing on the run take the difficulty of the event off the hook.
Magali has always been super fit - when you look over at her halfway up a mountain, she is always smiling and exclaiming about how "GREET" the scenery is (she means it's awesome) and never breathing hard. Still, it seemed like a lot to bite off to me. Never having done an Ironman before, I dispensed advice easily - start out really slow, have a good time, and see how far you get.
Mag did more than that - she cruised the entire event feeling "greet" until the last 13 mile lap of the run, when she caught a guy from her triathlon club in Toulouse. They were both starting to feel tired, so they agreed to finish the run together. She ended up finishing in 15 hours 4 minutes and change, 10th place on the podium among many of the top triathletes in Europe! How cool is that?
Here's the video on French television TF1. They interview Magali just after the swim, as she's getting ready for the bike leg.
August 19, 2007:
It seems I've picked the hottest days of July and August to wander up to Muir and do a little skiing.
It was actually a pretty good strategy. Get up fairly early, wind my way through the I-5 morass (more morass this week with the construction in the northbound lanes between the stadiums and MLK), and take a leisurely drive through Puyallup and Eatonville. The hike is great if you start before it really heats up - you can leave the trail runners on to well above Pebble Creek (actually, it probably would be fastest to just leave them on all the way to Muir). Since I'm a skier first, I put skins on at about 8,500 ft. and struggled through the grit-covered suncups.
When it's ninety-plus degrees in town, it's perfect at 10,000 ft. for lounging in shirtsleeves and having a little lunch. Then you get to ski down. The huge and not-so-soft suncups make for marginal skiing on the Muir Snowfield proper, but smoother snow is just around the corner on the upper Paradise snowfield, at least below 8,200 ft. A quick 200 ft. shale hop brings you to another snowfield running right down to Pebble Creek.
On the hike down, an exotic-looking black woman who looked like she might be on vacation from a Vegas chorus line asked me if I was one of "those Turns-All-Year" guys. She introduced herself as Bayonne, and said she was married to tele-pioneer Kurt Hummel! Descending into the heat, and stopping repeatedly to chat with people from Atlanta, Spain, and California (everyone wants to talk to guys with skis on their back) was a good reminder that the mountain was a good place to be in August . . .
August 6, 2007:
That was the word to describe the Turns-All-Year forum members who participated in the annual Pinnacle Peak Slush Cup last week, at least for a few minutes.
Somehow National Public Radio reporter Tom Banse got wind of the low-profile celebration (as did the MRNP rangers) and decided to hike up to the pond skimming site to check out the scene and do a few interviews. TAY regular Jeanette Morrison lead off the interviews with a bubbly explanation of the Turns-All-Year sickness, followed by site founder Charles Eldridge and long-time year-round skier Danny Miller.
The cheers of onlookers and the shrieks of people underestimating how much speed was necessary to cross the pond made for some colorful background sound bites - here's the interview.
I'm up in Whistler, BC at the moment, piggybacking on the Meadowbrook Rec Center's WIFI connection and watching some wild raquetball action. I just checked out the new Arc'teryx offerings at Escape Route in the village, and was shocked to see not only the high prices ($100 or so above the prices in the US doesn't quite cut it with the nearly equal exchage rate) but that some of the new hardshells (in this case, the Alpha SL) are now sporting a discreet "Made in China" tag. Yikes.
I'd always known that the gold standard Arc'teryx jackets were made by Chinese, but they were Chinese living the good life in Vancouver, BC. Now that bastion of quality North American handiwork seems headed toward extinction, no doubt the victim of some accountant's analysis. FWIW, neither the quality nor the price of the garments in question seems to have been diminished by said out-sourcing.
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"Incoming" covers developments that have personal interest to me (ie. gear I might consider acquiring, or events I feel may impact the sport of skiing) - it is by no means meant to be a comprehensive enumeration of gear or events in the ski world at large. Feel free to contact me via the randosaigai.com link below with news or images that may be of interest . . .
© 2007 Gregory C. Louie